Showing posts with label SA Cosby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SA Cosby. Show all posts

30 December 2022

2022 Rearview


Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

  By the time you read this, I will be finishing up the 104th book I've read this year. This includes Audible. It's rare I can read that many books in a year. Had I not learned to speed read, I probably would not have pulled this off. With the ability to speed read certain books, I actually could give them the attention they deserved (or didn't.)

The Herculean reading list was driven in part by wanting to finish Stephen King's canon. Assuming only one book in 2023 for Mr. King, I probably will wrap up this years-long project with Holly in October. As I finish up the two latest, Gwendy's Final Task and Fairy Tale, I'll turn my attention to the Bachman books. Rage, which is now out of print by King's request, will likely be the most difficult to read in this era of school shootings. Road Work, though short, will probably be the slog I remember when I first read it twenty years ago.

I also rotated through some classics - Twain, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, as well as Harold Bloom's list of novels from How to Read. One from this last list proved to be a massive disappointment. Another I decided to save for later due to its sheer length and a lack of an Audible version that wasn't a glorified radio drama. So what did I read this year?

I'll skip science fiction unless it fits a category here.

First Book: Galway Girl by Ken Bruen. Until this year, I made it a point to start with one of Bruen's Taylor novels. Due to a release date issue, I read is last in November. But Galway Girl seems to be a mulligan for Em's fate in a previous book. A new foil, a virtual clone of Em (deliberately so, as we find out), comes to menace Jack. It's not bad, but gone are Ridge and Maeve. Father Malachy is a more reluctant antagonist. And Clancy is nowhere to be seen except in a couple of scenes. We're left wondering just how much more Jack can take at the hands of his creator, meaning Bruen. We find out in the follow-up, A Galway Epiphany, which I also read this year.

Last Book: We can look at it two ways: on the day I'm writing this, I finished King's On Writing, one of a handful of books I reread annually or every other year. But on the day you read this, I'll be wrapping up an ARC of Right Between the Eyes by Scott Loring Sanders. So far, Right Between the Eyes is turning into a cross between a Stephen King novel with its small-town New England setting and an SA Cosby book, semi-rural crime with lots of secrets and lies.

On Writing, of course, is a must-read for any writer. The book never seems the same to me twice. Maybe because, while I reread it more than other books, I don't read that often.

Best Book Read This Year: Under Color of Law by Aaron Philip Clark. Clark's Detective Trevor Finnegan is setup to fall as he investigates the death of a brother officer. Finn, as he's called, decided to be a cop to "make a difference," even giving up a promising art career to do it.

Rather than a tirade on race, Clark paints a nuanced portrait of LA's racial tension. He does point a finger at the LAPD of the nineties for the present undercurrent of distrust. But Finn is uniquely positioned to see both sides. Yes, police brutality and systematic racism are very real, but Clark manages to convey something that gets lost in the narrative. With each shooting of an unarmed civilian and each violent protest that follows, police officers feel something they're paid not to show: Fear. And each incident makes it worse. Yet Finn understands why a black man also feels fear, so it's double for him with a foot in each world. 

Clark gets the whole picture, all the while having Finn confront the same corrupt department politics we normally see. His solution doesn't give his would-be rivals the satisfaction they crave.

Biggest Disappointment: Portrait of a Lady. And some heads are probably exploding over this one. Too bad. I pulled this one from a list of novels recommended by the late Harold Bloom in his book How to Read. Harold owes me an apology. The book begins with the author doing his own literary criticism, which left me screaming, "That's not how this works! That's not how any of this works!" And then we're treated to fifty pages of the problems of rich people. I am aware I said this as someone who also watches The Crown and Succession. The former, though, is history through people who are supposed to represent it. The latter is watching the 1% trip over themselves trying to rule the world. (And let's be honest, it's a joy to watch Brian Cox work.) This started with a bunch of bankers sniffing disdainfully at how it must be sad not to be a rich Victorian. I barely got to see the lady of the title before I bailed. 

This is one of those books we're supposed to read, and somehow, King found it praiseworthy. King also likes Roger Corman films whereas I generally skip them unless they have three silhouettes at the bottom making wise-ass comments. (Mind you, Corman has mentored generations of filmmakers, so he can make a movie about Prince Harry's grocery list for all I care. The next Tarantino may learn something from it.)

Biggest Surprise: Ohio: A Novel. This one hit a little close to home. These were Millennials growing up in a town not too dissimilar to the burb where I grew up. It's even set in NE Ohio, my old stomping grounds. My mind's eyes supplied Lucas, Ohio, a town near where my parents spent their final years, as the set surrounding this drama involving five local kids who return as adults for the funeral of a classmate who died a war hero. Ohio captures the despair of the Rust Belt from a generation that doesn't remember when Big Steel and Big Auto ruled. A sixth member of the group is missing. It seems she's gone to Southeast Asia and disappeared, but her actual fate is teased out over the novel It becomes clear that Ohio is less about a fallen war hero who was not the paragon from his eulogy and more about this missing woman who mysteriously still writes home.

Newest Addiction: SA Cosby. This year, I read Blacktop Wilderness and Razorblade Tears. Had to wait until December for the rerelease of My Darkest Prayer, which will be second read of the new year. Cosby does what Ken Bruen does: Paints a dark portrait of a very real place. Instead of Galway, we get Virginia, away from the Beltway and the DC suburbs. Like Pelecanos's DC, which ignores the "visitors," Cosby writes about the south, how religion and race and poverty all go into the stew that is southern culture. Some pieces are quite unpleasant, but the whole is not. And if we're going to call it a stew, then SA Cosby is a master chef.


07 January 2022

Three Books in 2022


Since about 2011, I've kept a spreadsheet of what I've read over a given year. Thanks to multiple formats, the number's been as high as 100. Thanks to Audible, it's never gone as low as 30. Last year, I read 52. One of them was a book on speed-reading.

I read widely. I'm working my way through Stephen King's back list, and with any luck, Billy Summers will be one of the last books I read this year. I do a rotation. Non-fiction of some sort, crime, science fiction, an indie writer who's caught my attention, a classic, and King. Part, but not all, of the classic side includes Harry Bloom's novel list from How to Read. I'll spare you the rest as the non-fiction tends to be all over the map, and SF is not really the purpose of Sleuthsayers. So, let's focus on crime.


Every year since about the mid-2000s, I've started off with Ken Bruen, mainly the Jack Taylor series. Assuming 2022 does not involve kaiju, nuclear annihilation, another great plague, alien invasion, or Ken writing one more Jack Taylor, I will probably finish the series in January of 2023. For January, 2022, I'm reading Galway Girl. I was not a big fan of Em when she appeared in the series. I couldn't figure out if Ken was passing the baton to a young woman even more rage-prone than Jack or something else. (Spoiler alert: Something else.) But then, at the end of In the Galway Silence, he introduces a woman who is a clone of Em, and, it seems, by choice. She calls herself Jericho, and yes, she is there to make Jack's life a living hell. Only, whenever someone wants to torment Jack, they have to get in line. At the head of the line, they inevitably find out Jack calls that "Tuesday."  Ken doesn't so much write a novel with the Taylor series as much as write violent epic poems set in Galway. Galway Girl is proving to be a dark, bleak novel full of nihilism and death. It's a marvelous way to start off a new year full of hope and optimism. (Or at least the fleeting hope that the hangover from 2020 will finally lift.)


The next crime novel on the list is SA Cosby's Razor Blade Tears. I'd like to compare Cosby to Ken Bruen, but the first thing by him that I read, Black Top Wasteland, I found too optimistic. Seriously, though, I read Wasteland last year after connection with Shawn online. It was probably the best crime novel I'd read in a long time, so both Razor Blade Tears and his upcoming All Sinners Bleed are on this year's TBR stack. Cosby writes about the South, does not shy away from race, yet writes about a world not too dissimilar from where I grew up, which was seventies and eighties Rust Belt. Like Blacktop, Blade is about an ordinary man without privilege who has his life upended by crime, in this case, the murder of his son. What's amazing about Cosby's work is the characters may lead a different life from most of us, but the landmarks on their path are quite often all-too-familiar.


Third on the list is Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Set in 1954, its premise has a lot in common with SA Cosby's work. A young man released from a juvenile work farm is driven home to Nebraska. He intends to pick up his recently orphaned brother and head for California to start a new life. Two of his fellow inmates have secretly tagged along with another plan: They want to take him to New York. Lincoln Highway covers more familiar territory for me geographically, rolling across the Midwest, though it's a time when the steel mills still roared, Studebakers still rolled off the assembly lines alongside Packards, and steam powered the railways.

There will be more, obviously. Someone who read 52 books last year, with every sixth Kindle, paperback, or hardcover a crime novel, these three are only enough to get me through early spring.

So, what's on your TBR stack for this year?